D&D By The Numbers: Building The Best Bard
What makes for the best bard? Judging from what the data says, it looks like a little bit of luck and a whole lot of skills.
Bards blend bolstering ballads with inspiring incantations intended to make any party better–but what makes the best bard? What buffs the buffer? Well, according to the latest data on what tends to be the most popular for bards, it looks like a whole lot of what people want out of their bards is being the best at skill checks. Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Bards have gone from being the catchall class to carving out an interesting niche in the playerspace. An interesting, multifaceted niche. But we can only run the numbers.
You’ll have to make them all add up.
First things first, let’s take a look at what kind of Bards are the most popular ones out there:
As with most classes, Bards tend to be multiclassed, but only by a slim margin. Not quite as slim as Rogues, which is what the majority of Bards are multiclassing as–fewer still look at Fighter or Paladin to help bring up that martial prowess. Which tells us a lot about how people are playing their Bards. For the most part, it looks like people playing Bards want enough skills to pay the bills. It’s even reflected in the most popular subclass choice:
Looking at the numbers, College of Lore wins out by a mile. For reference, the only other class out there that has a subclass gap about as big is the Warlock, because every Warlock is a Hexblade and every Bard is a Lore Bard. For reference the College of Lore is the one that’s all about gaining access to secret knowledge, magical or mundane. At least that’s the flavor text–but practically, this is a college all about skills. At 3rd level you get three additional skills to play around with, at 6th level you gain more magic, and if you make it to 14th, you can buff your own skill checks with your Inspiration. It is a skill-focused class like few others. Combo that with a Rogue Multiclass for even more expertise, and you’ll be sure to succeed at just about everything.
This makes a lot of sense. Bards are one of the more iconic “face” classes, which means people want them to feel successful when they’re doing things outside of combat. You wouldn’t put the expectations on a Fighter, or a Wizard that they also somehow be able to pick locks, but for Bards, folks want to see them do just about everything. So, players have built a bard that can. Let’s look at how the stats play out.
Much less surprising stuff here. The most popular Bard has pumped their Charisma score, and has a statline that looks like this:
- Str: 8
- Dex: 14
- Con: 13
- Int: 10
- Wis: 12
- Cha: 15
Not surprising that the spellcasting stat would be highest, followed immediately by Dex, which is arguably one of the most important stats in the game. You can use it to make melee attacks, determine your armor class, make ranged attacks, determine your initiative bonus–whatever class you’re playing, you’ll benefit from a high dexterity.
Almost as much as you will from casting those Bard Spell. We’d better pick which spells we know. Time to check out our list of chart-toppers.
Predictably, Cure Wounds and Healing Word are at the top of this iceberg, with Healing Word winning out just slightly because Bards have a lot of options when it comes to actions (they can cast a spell, make an attack, etc) and good ol’ Healing Word never takes away from that. The other spells on our list are Charm Person, Thunderwave (which is a surprising one to see), and Sleep, all of which lean in to the whole Bardic persona. At higher levels, Dissonant Whispers and Faerie Fire come into play along with invisibility, meaning our bard is going to be supporting their friends.
And looking at the cantrips, that trend continues. Vicious Mockery is the damaging cantrip, and it’s one that most every bard will take. After that, it’s some minor magical effects that are all about interacting and influencing the world in some way. You get the sense that bards aren’t casting cantrips in combat, but they are trying to shape the world in other ways.
Now all we have left to do is pick out gear:
So, dagger, shortsword and leather armor it is. Little surprise there. We might even have a Rapier depending on our starting package. Let’s instead check out what kind of feats we might take with our new forest friend..
Actor beats out the popular War Caster, making Bards an exception among spellcasting classes. They are the only primary caster class that doesn’t prioritize War Caster (though even then, it’s a close second). Again it tells you what Bards are doing most, making skill rolls and giving players something to do outside of Initiative.
How does your bard hold up? Let us know in the comments, and as always, Happy Adventuring!